Embodiment and social structure: A response to Howson and Inglis

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Howson and Inglis' paper is both timely and thought provoking. However, it is my contention that their argument is fundamentally flawed. They make five claims. The first two concern the emergence of sociological interest in 'the body' and are sound in my view. The third is that the work of Merleau-Ponty, which has been central to many forms of 'corporeal sociology', lacks an account of social structure and is insufficiently sociological in focus to be of use to sociology. The fourth suggests that the work of Pierre Bourdieu, which might be deemed a corrective to Merleau-Ponty, cannot serve this purpose without generating a form of social structural determinism which would undermine the benefits of Merleau-Ponty's contribution. The fifth speculates on whether cultural studies might not provide a more fruitful avenue for those who wish either to avoid determinism or to rejoin Merleau-Ponty. My main contention is with the third and fourth of these claims, though my view also necessarily has implications for the fifth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-326
Number of pages8
Journalsociological review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2001


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